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Tony Stewart’s fellow drivers glad to see him back racing

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While he may be one of their toughest rivals on a racetrack, several NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers are happy to see Tony Stewart back in a car this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

The three-time Sprint Cup champion will make his first start of the season in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400. He missed the season’s first eight races while recovering from a Jan. 31 accident in an ATV.

Kevin Harvick:

“I came to Stewart-Haas Racing to race with Tony. To see where he was from a personal standpoint over the time from when he got hurt and everything that happened, and see his interaction from the owner’s standpoint over the last several weeks has been very interesting to me, just to see how engaged he was and how excited he was and how relaxed and into what was going on.

“You add all that enthusiasm and engagement that he’s had with us at the racetrack and now you put him back in the car, and you can see that excitement to another level.

“It’s big to have him back in the car. We’re all excited as a sport and as his teammates to have him back in the car is always a good thing; and have that consistency moving forward with just one driver.

“Mike (Bugarewicz, crew chief) has done a great job and the team has done a great job and the organization has done a great job in supporting him, but to have that consistency is going to be big for everybody.”

Kurt Busch:

“It’s great to have our team owner and our lead driver back in the car. It’s great to see him recover as quickly as he did, to push through the rehab side of it to get back to the car. This is his retirement year. He is supposed to enjoy it. He wants to go out there and do well.

“I think Richmond is a perfect track for the body to come back to a race, because of the lower demands physically on the body because there is not a lot of banking here. There is not a lot of G-Force and you have to get up on the wheel and turn the wheel, but he will be able to settle in.

“He has had good history here at Richmond. He has had multiple wins, and it’s just nice to see him jump back in the car so soon. We just want him back in the car to work the bugs out of it to be as competitive as soon as possible.”

Joey Logano:

“We are glad to have him back. The 14 number has been out there every week, but Tony hasn’t been in it, so it is nice to have Tony back out in his final year. I can imagine he wants to go out on a good note, and it is nice to have him back in the car and be in that position where he loves to be and try to end his career on a high note.”

Brad Keselowski:

“Any time you welcome back a three-time champion, regardless of what his name is, is a big deal for our sport. I am glad to have him back, and I think it is a big deal for our fans as well.”

Denny Hamlin:

“It’s good. This is a retirement season for him and it was a little bit delayed, but he’s now going to be going to some of these race tracks for the final time, and I know just in general Tony has been around and traveling each week to the race tracks and been very hands-on with his race team.

“I know it’s all special memories for us to be able to go out there and compete with him. I know me coming into the Cup Series and being a teammate of his in my rookie season was awesome, but our relationship has grown so much further now that we’re not teammates. It’s a great season — would love to see him make a Chase push if he can and end on a good note.”

Carl Edwards:

“From a competitor’s standpoint, Tony is one of the fiercest competitors in the sport, so to have him there and have someone to battle against is fun. I’ve really enjoyed racing Tony, and it’s good to see him back in a car. I think he adds a lot and definitely makes it fun out on the racetrack.”

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My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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